Lamont Weekly Report, September 14, 2018

    Today’s landfall of Hurricane Florence, as well as the unusually large number of concurrent tropical cyclones (, provides us with a timely reminder of the importance of Lamont’s work on severe storms and other forms of extreme weather and climate in a world undergoing climate change. Our web site has several stories on Florence, including an explanation of the storm’s distinctive and particularly hazardous characteristics (, a list of Lamont and Earth Institute experts available to assist journalists (, and an article on how improvements to climate models will sharpen hurricane forecasts in the future ( Even as we digest the latest details learned about this week’s tropical cyclones, our thoughts go out to all those in the storms’ paths.

    In much better news, the Hudson River Environmental Society announced this week that Margie Turrin is to receive their Outstanding Educator Award for 2018. In naming Margie, the society wrote, “Margie Turrin…develops and runs science education projects for groups from informal community education, to K12 and undergraduate students. Her projects and publications range from engaging students and the public in the polar regions, understanding our Earth and environment, human interactions and impacts on their environment, Hudson River education, biodiversity, mapping and spatial skills assessments.” The award will be presented at the society’s Annual Awards Dinner in October. Please join me in congratulating Margie on this latest well-earned recognition of her many contributions to education and outreach!

    I am also pleased to announce that Margie has been named Director of Educational Field Programs in Lamont’s Office of Education and Outreach. The timing of her appointment was prompted by the renovation, now nearing completion, of Lamont’s Hudson River Field Station. The field station was once a simple “blockhouse” on the Piermont Pier that supported home port calls of the R/V Vema and was later used as a field site for monitoring the river with equipment installed by Wade McGillis and others. For many years, Margie has also made extensive use of the blockhouse and the pier in her education and public outreach work, including the widely recognized Day in the Life of the Hudson project and many others. In her new role, Margie will oversee the use and further development of the Piermont field site as well as many of the education and outreach field programs that she and others at Lamont now lead.

    In other education and outreach news, Cassie Xu is leading a new project in collaboration with colleagues at Teachers College and with support from the National Science Foundation’s Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) Program. The two-year project, dubbed “Make with Data,” seeks to empower youth to construct solutions to personally meaningful community challenges with open-source data. The students will be anchored by a collaborative team of educators from New York City public career and technical education schools, data experts from Earth Institute centers, industry professionals, and community groups. The project, aimed at high-school-aged learners under-represented in STEM professions, will be conducted at an after-school club at which students will use data to identify a compelling local challenge and then design a potential solution to address the problem. The overall goal of the project is to investigate whether providing opportunities for students to engage with data in a way that connects their life experiences to scientific practices can increase their interest in and shift their identities toward STEM fields. Cassie is seeking Lamont volunteers to serve in an advisory capacity, both through the project lifetime and toward the end when students complete their activities. Additionally, volunteers are sought for professional development days planned to familiarize educators with mechanisms for incorporating open-source data into their classrooms.

    Nature Geoscience posted online this week a paper coauthored by Gisela Winckler on the mechanisms controlling the record of dust and sea salt in polar ice cores. Dust and sea salt, transported poleward as aerosols from sources at low latitudes, are preserved as impurities in the polar ice. Large variations in dust and sea salt levels between climate states had often been attributed to source effects. Gisela and her colleagues, led by Bradley Markle of the University of Washington, showed from measurements on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet Divide ice core that water isotope ratios and aerosol concentrations are remarkably coherent on all timescales longer than a few centuries. The strong coherence can be explained by a simple model of the hydrological processes of condensation and rainout. By such a model, variations in aerosol concentrations between climate states are the result of variations in rainout history at mid latitudes rather than source effects. A strong hydrological control on both marine- and terrestrial-sourced aerosols has implications for changes in radiative forcing, polar amplification, and other climate processes.

    On Monday, Lamont distributed electronically the September issue of our monthly newsletter ( Under the theme “Unearthing Ocean Secrets,” the issue includes links to six stories on Lamont science and scientists, an education story by Cassie Xu story on Lamont’s INCLUDES (Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science) project to partner with neighboring institutions that also offer research experiences to non-exam-entry public school students, and 15 media stories from the past month about Lamont research and its impact.

    I spent the first two workdays this week in Washington, D.C. On Monday, I attended a daylong symposium for space physicist and long-time colleague Stamatios (Tom) Krimigis, on the occasion of his 80th birthday and 50 years at his current institution, the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory ( On Tuesday I was on Capitol Hill, to meet with majority and minority staffers for the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Subcommittees of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. My meeting with Leslie Albright and Matt Smith from the House subcommittee staff and their Senate counterparts Allen Cutler and Jean Toal-Eisen, on the topic of research needs in marine seismology, had been arranged by Meg Thompson and Joel Widder from Federal Science Partners.

    At yesterday’s Council of Deans, the Provost stated that within the next two weeks the university anticipates that an election will be announced on the question of whether postdoctoral scientists at Columbia should unionize. The makeup of the so-called bargaining unit, those eligible to vote, is not yet set, but it could include Postdoctoral Research Scientists, Postdoctoral Fellows, and Associate Research Scientists. By means of a memo sent yesterday from the office of the Executive Vice President for Research, department chairs were urged to advise their faculty members to meet with the postdocs they supervise and hold open discussions about the pros and cons of unionization. It will be most important that those eligible to vote exercise their voting rights. Even if those who vote constitute only a minority of those eligible, the result of the vote will apply to the entire bargaining unit, and if the union is successful then everyone in the bargaining unit will be bound by the conditions of the contract that the union will negotiate on such issues as compensation, working hours, union dues, and strike procedures. The university is developing a web site ( to lay out clearly the principal issues.

    Today, Lamont’s Changing Ice, Changing Coastlines Initiative is hosting an inaugural workshop in Monell Auditorium for Observatory scientists interested in the cryosphere and sea-level change. Workshop organizers include Alex Boghosian, Miranda Cashman, Chloe Gustafson, Julian Spergel, Laura Stevens, and Martin Wearing.

    This afternoon, at 3:30 pm and also in Monell Auditorium, Lamont will host the 14th Excellence in Mentoring Award ceremony. The finalists for this year’s award, announced on Tuesday, are Kevin Griffin, Jean Hanley, and Jason Smerdon. I hope that you will join me in the audience to hear about our most outstanding mentors. A reception will follow the ceremony.